Betting Guide for UFC 249: Knockouts, Submissions, and an Underdog
The UFC is officially back after a two-month absence, and this card is absolutely loaded with big names. If you're new to the sport, it would be hard to find a better event to start with than UFC 249.
This card is headlined by an interim lightweight title fight between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje. The bantamweight title is also up for grabs in the co-main event fight between current title holder Henry Cejudo and Dominick Cruz, who is returning to the octagon for the first time since December 2016. Yes, you read that right. He is returning from a near three-and-a-half year absence. And he's not the only former champion returning from a long layoff, as Fabricio Werdum is also back after serving a two-year USADA suspension.
And of course Donald Cerrone wouldn't miss out on the UFC's return. The company's all-time leader in fights (34) wins (23), finishes (16) and knockdowns (20) is attempting to claim the record for the most knockout wins if he can get his 11th against veteran Anthony Pettis on Saturday.
With this being the only show in town and the event being in the works for a while now, the lines are fairly settled in, with value hard to come by. For that reason, the inside the distance lines are more appealing (listed under "Double Chance" on UFC odds). Keep an eye on the fighters once they start arriving for fight week and especially on the weigh-ins, since many of the fighters were not able to go through their typical pre-fight training camps during the pandemic. We may see lines change later in the week and more value to come up.
For now, let's dive into the best bets at UFC odds to see where we can win.
Ryan Spann By KO/TKO or Submission (-145)
Ryan Spann is a massive -410 favorite in the first fight of the night. I will use that line in parlays, but it's too big for me to bet straight up. However, his -145 line to win inside the distance ("Double Chance" on FanDuel Sportsbook) stands out as a much better value.
Spann has only gone the distance once in his four fights in the UFC and Dana White's Contender Series. His other three wins came by either knockout (two) or submission (one) within the first two rounds. His Contender Series win to earn his UFC contract was a 26-second submission over Emiliano Sordi, who most recently went 5-0 in the latest PFL season, finishing all of his opponents inside two rounds.
Spann's opponent is Sam Alvey, who is on a three-fight skid that includes being knocked out twice. The first of those knockouts came at the hands of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, who himself was knocked out by Spann in just over two minutes into his most recent fight. This fight is -235 to end inside three rounds, and Alvey has only finished one opponent over his past 10 fights. And that was against a fighter whose only UFC action includes two first round knockout losses.
Spann's proven ability to end fights early, coupled with Alvey's recent run of getting finished by lesser fighters, makes this my favorite bet of the night. Go ahead and start building your bankroll with the first fight of the night.
Francis Ngannou By KO/TKO or Submission (-175)
Francis Ngannou was billed as the next heavyweight phenom, storming into the UFC with six straight stoppage wins before dropping two decisions. Now he's right back where he left off before those losses, after picking up three straight first round knockout victories. Each of his past seven victories have come within the first two minutes of the fight.
His opponent, Jairzinho Rozenstruik, is off to a red hot start in the UFC himself, knocking out each of his first four opponents to continue his undefeated MMA reign. Two of those knockouts came 9 seconds and 29 seconds into his second and third fights, respectively. His first fight ended just under a minute into the second round.
But it's important to take a look at his most recent fight, in which he knocked out Alistair Overeem at the 4:56 mark of the fifth round. Rozenstruik was thoroughly outclassed throughout that fight, with Overeem landing 74-of-105 (70%) significant strikes, compared to Rozenstruik connecting on 109-of-229 (42%). Overeem also took him down twice and passed Rozenstruik's guard three times. Rozenstruik was all set to be handed his first MMA loss before connecting with a blistering right hand, which split through Overeem's lip and dropped him with only four seconds remaining in the fight.
In comparison, Ngannou needed just 1:42 to dismantle Overeem with an uppercut on his road to a title shot in December 2017. Ngannou connected on 6 of his 14 significant strike attempts (42%) in that fight while getting hit by just one of Overeem's four attempts (25%). That's not to say a common opponent tells all in a matchup, but Overeem represented a big step up in competition compared to Rozenstruik's first three UFC opponents, and he failed to show that he was ready for the the first 24:55 of the fight.
Ngannou is -270 to win this fight straight up, but his line to win inside the distance at -175 is much more attractive. And with this fight priced at -380 to finish inside three rounds, the value is in on Ngannou finishing this one early.
Vicente Luque By KO/TKO or Submission (-165)
This is a fight that makes little matchmaking sense. Vicente Luque and Niko Price already met once in October 2017, with Luque winning by submission in the second round.
That kicked off a six-fight win streak for Luque, with the first five of those coming inside the distance. He holds a 10-3 record overall in the UFC, with all but one of those victories coming by KO/TKO or submission. Of those three UFC losses, the first one came in his first UFC fight, the second was to Leon Edwards -- who is on an eight-fight win streak since losing to the current champion, Kamaru Usman -- and the third came in his last fight against Stephen Thompson (ranked fifth in the welterweight division). All three of those fights went to decision.
Price has put together a 4-2 record since that loss to Luque, with all four of those wins coming inside the distance. That includes his wild upkick knockout victory over James Vick in his most recent fight. Catching your opponent on their chin with a wild kick while laying on your back isn't exactly a sustainable recipe for success.
Luque holds the advantage over Price in both significant strikes landed per minute (5.18 to 3.06) and striking accuracy (53% to 34%). Luque does absorb slightly more strikes per minute (5.34 to 4.46), while both fighters are sporting a 51% striking defense rate in the UFC. Luque is also the more accurate fighter in the grappling department, with a 50% takedown accuracy, compared to just 23% for Price.
Luque's fights average 8:25, while Price is sitting at just 5:35, so it's easy to see how this fight has a whopping -460 line to end inside three rounds. All signs point to this fight ending early, with Luque being the one getting his hand raised.
Michelle Waterson (+136)
Not all of the fights will end early on Saturday, and not all of the favorites will win.
Moving down to the women's strawweight division, we have Michelle Waterson (+136) looking to upset Carla Esparza (-160). Waterson's average fight time is 12:46, while Esparza's is even higher at 14:02, which explains this fight sitting at -400 to go to decision.
Waterson fights at a higher pace on the feet, landing 3.35 significant strikes per minute, compared to just 2.22 for Esparza. It's the latter fighter who is more aggressive in the wrestling department, with Esparza averaging 3.53 takedowns per 15 minutes compared to Waterson's 1.88. But Waterson certainly doesn't slow down once the fight goes to the ground, as she averages 1.2 submissions per 15 minutes, as opposed to just 0.3 for Esparza.
The favored Esparza is coming off of two wins over lesser competition following her previous two-fight losing skid. Waterson on the other hand is actually coming off of a loss to former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Going the distance with the former Strawweight Queen is quite an accomplishment, and actually something Esparza was unable to do, as she lost the belt when Jedrzejczyk knocked her out in the second round of their 2015 fight.
This is a very close fight to call and will likely be decided by the judges. Waterson could easily be favored here, so go ahead and jump on the value with her as the underdog.